• April 5, 2022
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Diving with death! meet the daring crocodile egg hunters risking their lives for survival

Diving with death! meet the daring crocodile egg hunters risking their lives for survival

If there was a predator to be labeled a cold-blooded killer, the crocodile fits the description perfectly.

But deep in Tana Delta sub-county, in a village called Onkolde, locals have for decades found fun and fortune in harvesting the reptiles’ eggs despite the danger associated with the activity.

It is a tradition that has been passed from one generation to another for years and is only practiced by men and their male children.

The skill of tracing crocodile nests, handling the eggs and successfully making away with them takes more than a year to master.

Abiba Somani has been in the business for nearly 30 years as a licensed egg hunter and conservator.

“I was trained by someone else and I have trained more than 20 people who are currently in the business of selling eggs. It is a fulfilling venture,” he revealed.

Mr Somani says crocodiles come out to lay eggs in November, December and January.

The reptiles find soft soil near the Tana river and dig up a hole. They then lay eggs and cover them with soil and trash before going back to the water.

To ensure they have an easy harvest, hunters prepare the laying ground for the crocodiles by clearing brush near the river to create an open space for them to lay eggs.

“They love open space, a clear place where they can always walk by and monitor whenever they come out, so we make sure that when it’s about the season for them to lay eggs, we prepare a landing for them,” he narrated.

Crocodiles lay eggs in different numbers depending on their age.

Mr Somani noted that a mature crocodile can lay up to 60 eggs, middle-aged ones up to 40 and the young up to 25.

First, the crocodile prepares the landing by digging a trough-like hole, leaving it to moisturize for the day before returning later at sunset or before sunrise to lay eggs and cover it up with its tail.

“The biggest enemy of crocodile eggs is the monitor lizard and so we stay alert on trees once the crocodile lays eggs, mark the spot, and once it goes back into the water, we dig up the hole and take the eggs to a safer place where we can monitor them,” he explained.

They then wait for companies to make an order for eggs.

Companies in the region, like Mamba Village and Haller Park buy an egg for Sh50, while Galaxy from Sagana buys one for Sh100.

A fortunate egg harvester makes more than Sh60,000 in a season, depending on who the buyer is and the number of nests he owns.

“There are egg harvesters who own up to 10 nests along this river line. Each nest has about 50 eggs and so they make good money,” he said.

For the three decades Mr. Somani has been in the business, he has worked with several companies to deliver crocodile eggs.

The highest he recounts ever making was Sh150,000 in a season, back when business was good and harvesters were few.

“The business has been slow and low and therefore I resolved to conserve the crocodiles,” he said.

Mr Somani has polished the skills of monitoring the eggs up to their 90th day when he visits the nests and listens to hear whether they are ready to be broken for the young crocodiles to come out.

Though business is low, he is still training his children how to harvest crocodile eggs and conserve the reptiles.

“We need them to grow so that we can have more eggs in the future, and therefore I encourage my children to conserve them as a means of propagating a future venture,” he said.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Tana River Senior Warden Augustine Ajuoga said the practice is fully regulated and licensed.

“It is a good venture and it is encouraged, but under regulations that individuals and farms (must follow),” he explained.

Along the River Tana in Tana Delta, crocodile farms have established incubators and employed egg harvesters in Galili and Onkolde.

Source: Nation.Africa

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